Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading the fascinating biography Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. I’m a big fan of biographies and autobiographies of entrepreneurs and this one doesn’t disappoint. Here are a few notes from the book:

  • Rockefeller’s dad was a fake doctor with wives and kids in different states
  • Rockefeller got his start as an accountant for a business in Cleveland that imported commodities
  • Rockefeller started his own company in his 20s importing commodities and eventually realized refining oil was more lucrative
  • Rockefeller’s company, Standard Oil, set up unfair partnerships with railroads that resulted in significantly lower shipping costs, which helped put many competitors out of business
  • Rockefeller moved from Cleveland to NYC as more and more business was being done on the East coast and internationally
  • Rockefeller had a daily lunch with his direct reports and that’s how they coordinated everything in the late 1800s
  • Rockefeller was an extremely devout Baptist, a teetotaler his entire life, and funded many Baptist causes
  • Rockefeller donated money for the original Spelman College in Atlanta and paid for many of its buildings over the years
  • The University of Chicago was founded and funded by Rockefeller and has his name in the official university seal
  • Rockefeller funded the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research, and is credited with large scale philanthropy efforts around medical research, even though he was a devout believer in homeopathic remedies
  • Rockefeller retired in his 50s and lived well into his 90s

Rockefeller built one of the first large-scale monopolies, was the world’s richest man, and spent decades immersed in philanthropy that truly impacted the world. The author does a great job capturing details and telling stores making for a great book.

2 thoughts on “Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

  1. Great post about a great book. I read it a couple of years ago. A couple of things I remember:
    – he had a strong partner, Henry Flagler, who played a big role in the success of Standard Oil behind the scenes and he did not get as famous as Rockefeller himself (although he donated heavily to a particular college, where they named a business school after his wife Kenan Flagler)
    – he followed a rigid daily schedule with the goal of becoming 100 years old (he almost made it)
    – in today’s money, he made about a billion dollar just in 1902 (tax free). Now that is FU money

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